Born Noah Coogler, White Dave’s latest track, “Grizzly,” is an ‘80’s inspired single about keeping an aggressive grind approach to life.
Coogler is brother to the award-winning director Ryan Coogler, who has featured his sibling’s hits on the soundtracks to his films like Creed and Black Panther. White Dave’s fans also span Hollywood, and include Michael B. Jordan and Daniel Kaluuya.
Tell me your whole inception into music — When did you first become interested in it? And, how did it all begin for Noah Coogler?
White Dave: I’ve always been interested in music since I was a kid. I was surrounded by it. My mom sang and played instruments. Her father played instruments as well. I come from a musically inclined family, and a family that also loves music so…the love for music came at a very young age, and I started creating my own music when I was relatively young. We had this keyboard when I was like 7 or 8, and I used to f*ck around with that. Just make music, make beats, all that cool stuff, man. So it started young, I started really young.
Now you’re from Richmond, CA, correct? So growing up in the ‘City of Pride and Purpose,’ who all did / do you consider to be your strongest influences?
WD: Yeah. My biggest influence for sure is Kanye (West). I think that’s a generational thing. Being that I was born in the ‘90’s, but also (The) College Dropout came out when I was in 8th grade so it has this place for me…but I’ll say Kanye, Pharrell, E-40. Guys who’ve proven that they can last in the industry, but also continue to redefine themselves and adapt to the times.
At what point in time, specifically, did you even opt to pursue music on a professional basis?
WD: In college while I was at Sacramento State. That was about 2012 I’d say. I got a couple placements, and I made more money off placements than I would’ve made with a 4 year degree in Sociology. It was a more lucrative opportunity for me, and I decided to jump on it. I’m actually very close to graduating; it would take me a year because I have a 2 part class I would have to take. In college, I realized that I could support myself, pay my bills, save and stack up via the music. So that’s what I’ve been doing.
Of course your brother is famed movie director Ryan Coogler — So how big of an impact has he had on you choosing to pursue a career in the entertainment field?
WD: Man, honestly everything just lined up. Sometimes sh*t works out in a completely unexpected way. I never thought the music would get me this far or be my main source of income, so really the pieces just fell into place. I’m in a position where I’m following the dream my brother helped me achieve in the first place. I’ve always envisioned myself as an artist that would just create the music and live outside of the limelight. I’m not really big on attention like that, but I’m learning as I grow in this industry that it’s part of the gig. I didn’t grow up wanting to be in entertainment. I actually grew up wanting to be a teacher. So being in this entertainment industry is a blessing nonetheless. Like I really enjoy it. It’s cool. Definitely a curveball. I didn’t expect my life to end up like this.
That relationship has also afforded you rare opportunity to appear on some high profile projects; for example the soundtracks to both Creed and Black Panther — How exactly did it feel working on these popular endeavors?
WD: Honestly it was cool because they reached for some content and I was able to provide it. There’s two types of ways that I’ve gone about getting placements. First is when people reach out and say, “hey, we are collecting sounds or developing sounds for the album or the soundtrack” or whatever, and they will ask you to just send your music. Other times people will sit you down and say, “we need you to create this or create that.” For both of those projects, they asked me to send stuff in and they rocked with the content that I sent. I was fortunate, super super lucky and very blessed.
Where does your – very unique might I add – moniker originally derive from?
WD: Ah man…well long story short, people used to always get on me about how proper I talked and you know as a kid, I guess, it sticks with you. It never really made me feel bad. It did make me question how people viewed me, you know what I mean? What I realized is when u talk “proper” people view you a specific way and they treat you as such. They try to downplay your blackness. I never had any identity issues, but it definitely would bug me that people would give me a hard time. I spent Kindergarten through 8th grade mostly in private school. The foundation that I got in school and the foundation I got at home resulted in me having a blended (background). Basically people used to call me Carlton, Oreo, sh*t like that. White boy, all that bullsh*t. My older brother actually gave me the rap name. I went through a lot of rap names when I was younger, but my older brother gave me “White Dave” as a rap name. That was back in like 2011 something like that, 2010 maybe. It stuck. Big bro has been so instrumental in getting my career to this point, supporting me with the music, and encouraging me to continue at it. So I only felt it was right to let big bro give me my rap name.
That said, how do you classify your overall sound and / or style?
WD: I like to think of it as luxury casual raps, if you will. You know…I don’t rap about Lamborghinis and sh*t like that l, because I’m not gettin’ it like that. I got lifestyle raps. Smokin’, chillin’ with women, chillin’ with your homies. Ambitious raps. Reflective raps. I make a lot of music about looking at myself as a person. The older I get the more I have a clear definition of who I am, who I’m turning into, and who I’m becoming. I guess you can call it “coming of age raps.” I’ve been making music and rapping for so long, I’m seeing my story arc develop as I continue. It’s very flexible I guess you can say. You can’t point to one song and say “Ah yeah, this is White Dave,” because I also have a song that resides on the opposite end of the spectrum that also applies to me. So, I would say flexible. That’s why I’m so enamored with Kanye and Pharrell, and guys like Flo Rida and Pitbull. People you can’t pinpoint exactly what their sound is. Is it rap? Is it Pop? Is it fusion? Is it electronic? Is it R&B? Is it rock? That’s what I love. Just being able to be very fluid and flexible.
Your recently unleashed new single is entitled “Grizzly” — Tell me about this particular composition; how did it come to fruition?
WD: So…sometimes I’ll sit down with a blank canvas and say to myself that I’m going to create something from scratch today.”Grizzly” came together because I wanted to make something ‘80’s inspired. I’ve been listening to more hip ‘80’s music, and I wanted to make something you could dance to, you could pop to. Some sh*t Run-DMC would support. Some sh*t n*ggas would be playing on their boombox if they were on the subway, break dancing and sh*t. I wanted to make something ‘80’s driven, so I queued up some 808 sounds. I got hella plug ins that will give me this kind of vintage, kind of ‘80’s type sound, and I just started tooling around. The way that I produce is in patterns. I’ve made songs with lush chords, piano, symphonies and sh*t like that, but I think in rhythms and patterns. The bassline and the drums were the first thing to come. Them thangs was very groovy, very ‘80’s, and I was like, “yeah yeah these go crazy. I gotta get these poppin’!” Then I added the little synth. Then, I was like this sounds like ‘80’s music. I did that and I queued it up. My writing style has changed and developed over the years. I do a lot of rough rapping and recording before I start writing it out. Which is the opposite of how I’ve done it most of my career. For most of my career, I was a write first guy. These days I’ve been doing a lot of rapping first, going back and writing and then going back and rapping again. I made the beat, queued it up, threw it into Pro Tools and figured out how I wanted to rap on it first. Wrote the verses out. The hook, I just press record. It took me about 15 minutes to come up with the hook, but I wanted to do something simple and easy because the focus of the song is really just the groove of it, the whole vibe of it. I didn’t write the hook down. I had it on loop record and just letting it run. It came together and it was perfect. People like it, people rockin’ to it, people dancing to it and that’s all I really wanted. I sat down and said I want to make some ‘80’s sh*t and it came together.
Although “Grizzly” doesn’t appear on it, earlier this year you dropped an album, In Living Color — Conceptually, what does that title represent both to and for you?
WD: I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Pleasantville? It’s a tight ass movie that we got the concept from. One of the things that my management team and I had talked about was how unique I am as an artist, and how I provide my own color palette when I’m working. What I liked about ILC was it’s unique approach and refreshing sound that people haven’t heard from me yet. I feel like as an artist I provide a lot of pazazz and color. I bring a certain type of flair and energy. I thought that title, that cover and the message, lined up perfectly with what I’m trying to represent. And it worked out. My baby bro helped me come up with the concept, and we just ran with it. It’s also paying homage to ‘90’s culture. In Living Color was a huge, huge, huge deal in the ‘90’s, and a birth of a lot of stars in Hollywood. Just paying homage.
Switching gears here, what exactly do you want people to get from your music?
WD: Feel it, relate to it and enjoy the message. Dissect it and analyze it. Rinse and repeat. I just want people to enjoy it. It’ll move some people. It’ll make some people want to boogie. It’ll make some people want to be in their feelings. Whatever the music provides, I want it to do that. It can be therapeutic. All that cool sh*t. I used to say I make music for people. I used to say I make music for the fans, so they can enjoy it. What I’ve realized is that I actually make the music for myself because it’s therapy. It’s what keeps my heart pumping. It keeps my head clear. It keeps me on this earth. It’s super valuable when people relate to it because it lets me know I’m not the only one going through what I’m going through, or thinking about what I’m thinking about. If people can listen to the music and take something away from it that’s beautiful, but you can also just listen to it and slap. Music doesn’t have to always move you. Sometimes it can be some sh*t that sounds good, and that’s cool, too.
If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
WD: The list goes on forever honestly, but I got a few people on there. I don’t want to take up too much time. Nina Simone is on there. Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross. Britney Spears is on that list, believe or not. ‘Ye of course, Pharrell. I would love to do a record with Pac. That sh*t would be shhhhhh, c’mon! Who wouldn’t want to do a record with Pac? Yeah, man, the list goes on. It’s a lot of OG cats that I really want to make music with. Like Nina Simone. I got hip to her relatively later in life. I knew who she was, but I didn’t have immediate access to her music growing up. Though I do now, and her music just moves me. She is probably top of the list. Bob Marley is up there, too.
If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?
WD: I would love to do something unique. I would love to do something…maybe like an outdoor concert in the desert. Well I’m sure that’s been done before, but just something unique. Venues are great, don’t get me wrong, but one of the dopest shows I ever went to was Childish Gambino’s ‘Pharos’ concert that he threw in Joshua Tree. He set up a big ass dome in the middle of the desert, and that sh*t was tight as f*ck. Like it was amazing. That’s along the lines of something I’d like to do. An iconic arena, sure Madison Square Garden absolutely! That sh*t would be spectacular. Also do something crazy. Like do a show on a private island or a show on a big ass cruise ship. Just do something to spice it up.
In terms of longevity, what do you feel it is that will continue to sustain you in this grueling industry?
WD: Just my lightheartedness, man. Like I don’t take myself too serious, and I have fun with my job. My music is super sustainable. Women, weed, ambition. Can’t beat that! Priorities and focus changes over the years, but that’s some sh*t that everybody can relate to. Everybody can relate to love. Everybody can relate to wanting to achieve something. Everybody can relate to a coping skill. Tree is my coping mechanism. Everybody can relate to these things, and I think that’s where I’m sustainable. You look at Snoop. Snoop’s brand is sustainable. He’s been Snoop Dogg for 30 years and it’s perfect. That’s the type of grind I’m trying to get on. N*ggas like Snoop, Currency, Wiz. You got younger artists in the game that are continuing that in terms of n*ggas like Larry June. These guys have brands and music that is super sustainable. It will last them a lifetime. That’s the type of lane I’m trying to be in.
Do you have any other outside / additional future aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
WD: Hell yeah! I want to be the GM of a professional team, or help design some of these sports video games coming out.
To date, what has been your biggest career moment(s), at least thus far anyway?
WD: Biggest career moment definitely was when I worked with Ludwig Göransson on Season of the Rich. He’s probably the most accomplished person I’ve worked with. He listens to the music, has given me feedback, and has always provided me with ways to get better. That’s what I love. I think that’s probably the “highlight.” I’ve had music on video games, TV and movies…that sh*t is cool, but working with other artists that are going to push me to be better is my favorite thing in the whole entire world.
Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
WD: Producing, singing, writing. I’ve been doing more writing lately. In terms of music, film and TV. I would love to do some collabs. I don’t know if I’m much of a clothing and shoe designer, but I would love to do some collabs. I have amazing ideas that I would love to work on with some up and coming brands. I want to get into sunglasses. I think sunglasses are something that needs to be enhanced. I feel like people are doing it, but I feel like I have some ideas that could really take it to the next level. Just involved with anything that forces me to be creative. I’m a rapper, producer, engineer and all that cool sh*t, but I’m a creator as a whole. I like creating sh*t so anything that allows me to be creative, sign me up for it!
As for the immediate, what’s next for White Dave?
WD: Right now, just staying mentally sane. Making sure I keep my eye on my mental state. The quarantine has been heavy for a lot of folks, and I’ve been keeping my eye on that. I think the biggest thing is staying focused, staying driven, and keeping an eye on how I feel mentally. I have been doing great. I’ve been staying busy. The immediate next move is keeping my mental space clear because we have no idea how long we will be in this sh*t. So that’s my biggest focus right now.
Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention?
WD: Nah, but I do want to give a shout out to my management team: D’Lo, Coog, baby bro Keenan. Give a shout out to my producers; Boom, Kev H, Kyle Betty, Sammy J, Kizaru, Kenwood, YP on the Beat, SNDTRK. It’s so many people that have helped me on this journey and contributed. Tori Nicks, Lauryn Newson, Ian Kelly, Triflin’, Legendvry. Yeah, I guess I’m doing shoutouts and sh*t now. All that cool sh*t.
Any “closing” thought(s) for our readers?
WD: Be kind. Be kind and love each other, man. I’m all about love. I know it’s hard. It’s looking dark and looking dim, but we move with love. We move and we grow with love. I appreciate y’all taking the time.
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